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Friendship Trends: 9 Ways The Pandemic Has Changed Our Friendships

March 22, 2021 | By | 3 Replies Continue Reading

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed and uprooted almost every aspect of our lives. Unless you’ve lived through a World War, it’s been an unpredictable year, unlike any other. 

The pandemic has changed friendships, too. That’s not surprising given social distancing measures, lockdowns, quarantines, masking requirements, and the abrupt transition to remote work and schooling. 

Many of us have turned to technology to fill in gaps in our social relationships. A recent article from the BBC notes that at its peak, more than 300 million users participated in virtual meetings on Zoom, either for business or pleasure. 

Of course, the pandemic’s impact on friendships varies from person to person, dependent on such factors as the nature of one’s pre-pandemic friendships, an individual’s personality and communication styles; their social and emotional needs, and their post-pandemic life situation.

To capture some of the different ways that the pandemic changed friendships, we asked members of our Facebook Group, The Friendship Blog Connection for their perspectives. Here are some of their thoughts that reflect nine pandemic friendship trends:

PANDEMIC FRIENDSHIP TRENDS

1 – Separating the Wheat from The Chaff: Friends from Acquaintances

To some extent, convenience is one of the pillars of friendship. That’s why it was so easy to meet new people in grade school, high school and college, when people are thrown together in the same place at the same time. 

Similarly, the workplace is a natural incubator for friendships bringing together people with similar interests. Others form relationships with people they meet each day at the coffee shop or on their commute to work. 

Sometimes, friendships of convenience turn into intimate connections. Other friendships remain distant with people we consider acquaintances rather than real friends. During the pandemic, the distinction between close and distant friends became more apparent.

  • I’ve lost contact with MANY people. I’ve discovered who really are my friends in my area. I’ve reconnected with others like college classmates and childhood friends.
  • My relationships have definitely changed. I rarely see or speak to acquaintances now. 
  • I’m not sure at this point if I want to resume local friendships once we’re able to meet in person again. I’m in the process of evaluating the quality of these friendships.

2 – Rediscovering The Phone As The Next Best Thing 

Pandemic Friendship Trends: Phoning Instead of Texting

Pandemic Friendship Trends: Phoning Instead of Texting (credit: Pixabay)

When face-to-face contact became limited, there was a resurgence in phone use. People who ordinarily only used their phones to text friends and surf the Internet, felt like placing a call to hear a human voice.

An article in The New York Times reports that Verizon is currently handling an average of 800 million wireless phone calls per day. That figure is more than double the calls made on Mother’s Day, the busiest call day of the year. Moreover, the length of calls is 33 percent greater than pre-pandemic.

  • The pandemic brought a return to talking on the phone for me. For the previous ten years, more of my interactions were either face-to-face or catching up through text. I could probably count on one hand the number of phone conversations I [previously]had with friends.
  • Throughout the first 6 months or so, I’d talk on the phone with at least one friend around once a week. Now, I can go two weeks to a month between calls. 

3 – Recognizing the Positives of Online Friendships

In an interview published in The Guardian, Sherry Turkle, author of the seminal book Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other comments on online friendships: “It’s a miracle, but there are limitations.” Although not a substitute for pre-pandemic IRL friendships, the Internet has been a lifesaver for many during the pandemic.

  • I’ve met new people through virtual events and some have the potential of being friends.
  • I’ve also made a few new friendly acquaintances through my Facebook community groups, sometime I didn’t try to do and wasn’t looking for one. It’s too early to see whether anything will come from it or whether they’ll remain positive memories and friendly faces I might see out and about post-pandemic. 
  • Other friends I have zoomed with, and that has been fun. A few people I am closer to now because we have zoomed—we got together more on zoom than we would have in person during normal times and have actually gotten closer, which is a nice surprise.
  • …I interact more frequently with new virtual acquaintances via an online book club and an online French conversation group. Lovely people! I wouldn’t have pursued these online social activities if it hadn’t been for the pandemic.

4 – Appreciating Safer, Socially-Distanced Friendships

Pandemic Friendship Trends: Socially-distanced outdoor meetings with friends

Socially-distanced outdoor meetings with friends (credit: Pixabay)

“We’ve all pivoted and made adjustments to stay safe while also nurturing our relationships in more creative ways,” said one group member. One way people have done this is by taking advantage of socially-distant friendships.

  • I think I have been lucky with friendships during the pandemic and have been able to keep in touch with almost everyone. I have gotten together with a couple of friends in person one on one—using social distancing—which has kept me sane. 
  • I live in an area where I often connected with my friends to do outside activities like hiking, anyway…The group of hikers(and friends)I belong to does not go anymore and that has sucked. We still go camping with our crew regularly but another couple we are close with we see much much less and that’s been hard. 

5 – Discovering A Clash of Values

Who knew? Like the political landscape, some aspects of the pandemic proved divisive among once-friends leading to disputes and misunderstandings. Even close friends discovered they had different views about the seriousness of the pandemic, the precautions they needed to take to stay safe, and their willingness to assume risk.

  • I have found that a few people have become uncomfortable to be around, due to (I’m guessing) their level of anxiety about COVID. Those particular folks have become rather judgmental and vocal about what other people should or should not be doing. I have distanced myself a bit, as life is stressful enough without that. I’m not judging, just taking care of myself.
  • I have distanced myself from the judgmental people as well. I also distance myself from those who I know have broken the rules simply to keep myself safe. 

6 – Finding More or Less Time for Friends

Pandemic Friendship Trends: Both time demands and perception of time has changed (credit: Pixabay)

Both time demands and perception of time has changed (credit: Pixabay)

Making and keeping friends takes time. The pandemic turned the usual routines that mark days, weeks, and years topsy turvy and altered the amount of time we spend working, caregiving and spending at leisure. 

Some people feel they have more time on their hands post-pandemic. They have  saved time by only “commuting” from one room to another or ordering groceries online rather than shopping at a market. Unfortunately, many have joined the growing ranks of the unemployed with an overabundance of idle time.

Others feel that their days have shrunk, perhaps juggling childcare and work, or being constantly distracted by the people they live with in close quarters.

  • I might be a little different than most about the pandemic. My job is very hectic and requires a lot of travel, so this year has been a nice chance to slow down and reflect on things…
  • Since 90% of my friends are working from home and no longer commuting, they have more time and energy to reach out by phone.This includes a friend who used to call on her lunch hour at least once a week (the only friend I regularly phoned with pre-pandemic) and a friend who I texted with daily on her commute.

7 – Having More or Less Reasons to Connect Than Before

Even under ordinary circumstances, friendships are dynamic and change over time. This is even more the case during the pandemic.

  • …Since there were fewer activities going on, there wasn’t as much news for any of us to catch up on.
  • My father’s health deteriorated last summer and fall so I didn’t have the inclination to be as social.
  • My friends either are working from home or unemployed. During the winter in particular, it’s been more difficult to see people, partly due to the weather and partly because many friends aren’t comfortable doing the indoor activities that are available. 
  • Communication has reduced considerably in my case. Contact with local friends has been minimal throughout the pandemic (one friend and I speak on the phone less than once per month; I text and FB message other friends sporadically). This frequency of contact isn’t my preference, but I live alone with no family close by and most of my friends seem to be occupied with their spouses, partners, children and/or ailing parents.
  • My experience is that friends want to talk more, which I attribute in part to not having daily face to face chit-chatting with coworkers over the metaphoric water cooler.
  • I have become much more of a homebody. We could meet outside/socially distanced or go to the park or something, but I feel like everyone has become kind of lazy or wants to stay in.

8 – Introverts Breathing A Sigh of Relief

For those who tend to prefer alone time to cocktail-type banter, some aspects of the pandemic feel like a blessing in disguise.

  • I’ve only seen multiple friends at the same time on a few instances for safety reasons, which to me is positive because I don’t like group activities much in the first place.
  • For me the pandemic has toned down my anxiety about my friendship situation. It seemed like I always knew that other people had more going on socially before, and now I don’t really know what other people are up to. For me that’s good, it feels like something lifted from my to-do list.
  • Much less guilt that I’m not working hard enough to be social. I really appreciate when I do get time with friends now and it seems like those interactions are more satisfying. 

9 – Reaching Greater Acceptance and Empathy for Others

Reaching out to be a better friend

Reaching out to be a better friend

Many people have noticed that their friends and neighbors are more caring and kind than they were pre-pandemic. We recognize we are all in this together.

  • I’ve learned to simply accept my friends behaviour more than before, because COVID has affected everyone in some way. I give people more grace…I’ve learned more about friendship and to accept it in the many forms it can take.
  • Will I see some people differently after COVID? Perhaps somewhat, as I believe that stress, like alcohol, brings out some traits that were already there. But, empathy needs to be a part of that. 
  • A couple of friends have gotten withdrawn during this time. It was hard not to take it personally, but over time, I’ve learned to give them some grace. Some people withdraw in order to be able to process stuff.
  • I’m finding a new appreciation for the fact that everyone is doing their best during COVID and that I don’t know their story. 

Have your friendships changed? Do your experiences resonate with any of these pandemic friendship trends?


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9 ways the pandemic altered our friendships


 

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Comments (3)

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  1. Sandra says:

    Thanks so much for this post. I’m not on Facebook, so I missed all of this great conversation about friendships during the pandemic. So many of the trends listed hit the bulls-eye for me. Especially the remarks in #1 about “separating the wheat from the chaff.”

    My best friend and I were talking recently about how the pandemic forced to us to think about what true friendship means and what makes a good friend. I no longer take for granted the loyal, trusted friends I have — and I want to continue those.

    But I also started questioning the friendships of “convenience” mentioned in trend #1. There are a lot of people I hang with out of routine or obligation, even though we’ve changed or don’t have much in common anymore besides living in the same community or neighborhood. I’m not interested in friendships where much of the together is spent on gossip, shopping, or small talk, and realize how much friendship time gets wasted that way. Not that I plan to dump those friends entirely, but like someone else mentioned in this article:

    “I’m not sure at this point if I want to resume local friendships once we’re able to meet in person again. I’m in the process of evaluating the quality of these friendships.” BINGO!

    The pandemic made me reach out to friends who want meaningful conversations, share my values, and support me emotionally. I want to give them the same support they offer me (reciprocation is essential). More than ever, I realize that life is short and can change in a minute, so I would rather spend my time with people I really care about, having quality experiences together.

  2. Annie says:

    Helpful column!—thank you!

    Yes, I experienced a clash of values, which ended a friendship. My desire to limit coffee meet ups to outdoors only was, she thought, overly cautious, and I was ridiculed for it. It stunned me at first. Then I realized this person was not a true friend, and more significantly, realized that I had disregarded similar red flags with her in the past. This was a good lesson for me to pay more attention to my instincts.

    I am glad to open up my life and time to others instead.

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